Now developing into a crescendo, Khama’s express desire to return to the military must be presenting Masisi with a headache because such a development would be extremely unconventional anywhere and immeasurably controversial
Outgoing President Ian Khama has reiterated his desire to rejoin the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) when he stands down as President on April 1.
Khama dug in his heels over the weekend at a ceremony hosted by the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) to bid him farewell.
This was the third time that Khama spoke at a public rally of his intention to rejoin the high command of the BDF.
The first was in Goodhope-Mabule in 2015 during a bye-election campaign following the resignation of then incumbent James Mathokgwane of the opposition Botswana National Front.
“When I retire from this job, I will rejoin the army,” Khama was quoted as saying. “I will make sure that the Vice President who would become the next President would appoint me the Commander of the BDF. If he rejects the idea, I would not make him the President, I will appoint the one who would make me the army Commander.”
However, in reference to Lt. Gen. Tebogo Masire’s speech, Khama stated on Saturday: “You were saying every 10 years I was somewhere else, but you didn’t say where I will be in the next 10 years. So in the next 10 years I will be the Commander of the Botswana Defence Force,” he said amid a rupture of both confusion and clapping.
He further called on Mogae to persuade Masisi to make the appointment since Mogae was the person who recruited him from the BDF.
“It’s him who took me from the BDF in Maun in 1997…” said Khama. “So Rre Mogae, I want you to correct something. You owe me. Because you went to the military and asked me to deputise you while I was still left with many years, the rightful thing to do is to talk to Masisi so that he takes me back to BDF on the 1st of April,”
“I mean, I’m still left with some years and no one should have any doubt that I can still be commander. I’m still fit. You saw me playing soccer dribbling civil servants…So I’m still fit. I’m still youthful. I know that you’re laughing (supporters) because you don’t doubt that. My faith is on you my President Rre Mogae.”
Meanwhile, perhaps as Khama realisation of being leader of a relatively small state, he advised Masisi that while he will have all the power in the country, in the sub-region he will be nothing but a junior.
On the opposition
Khama also told the BDP rank and file that he strongly believes opposition leaders lack the fitness to lead the country.
He gave examples of British prime ministers Theresa May and her predecessor David Cameron whom he described as a good friend of his.
“I want to tell you, there are others who like to fool around who claim they can be presidents, but a leader either makes or breaks the country,” he said.
“I’m going to give you some examples. But the people I’ll give examples of, I’ve got nothing against them. They are just examples. Let me start with the former prime minister of Great Britain, David Cameron. He was a good friend of mine and he was a good prime minister but he made a big mistake by allowing the Brexit referendum to ask the public if they want to remain in or leave the EU (European Union).”
Khama revealed his convictions, noting that the plebiscite was a major mistake since only a small majority won the day for the ‘leave’ vote.
“Today when you watch televisions and read the newspapers, you can see that there is a problem,” he said. “This thing they call Brexit is a big problem. It has brought about bigger divisions in the country and even bigger divisions in the party.”
Khama added that in his resignation, Cameron left May with a burning problem in her hands. “I think she is a very good prime minister and she will still make a better prime minister,” he noted.
“But she also made a mistake because at the time she took over, the Conservative Party had a small majority in parliament and she left a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. She decided to take a chance and called for elections early and she lost a majority. She is in trouble.”
US President Donald Trump also did not escape his barbs, saying that members of his cabinet are forever leaving.
It remains to be seen whether the BDF reinstatement will materialise. Khama’s demand for reinstatement has put Masisi in a tight corner since the decision will be unconventional and controversial in the extreme.